06 October 2016

a little bit of culture

Well hello there! About time for an update innit. So I've been doing various things over the last two months, including some new crochet designs which hopefully I'll be able to share with you soon. But for now I thought I would show you some of the cultural outings I've had.


So lets start off with a bit of good old art. In September me and the wife went to London for the weekend. Now, I'm not the biggest fan of the place, too many people for me, and everything's all rush rush rush. Add to that I had to postpone our trip by a day due to a horrendous sickness bug. So, still slightly ill, I managed to drag myself there, and one of the biggest reason I wanted to go was to catch this very special exhibition.


The Blain Southern Gallery, just off Regent Street, was hosting a solo exhibition by Abdoulaye Konaté, a Malian textile artist. You can read more about his work and the exhibition here on the gallery's website (there's also a really good video there which I suggest you watch, it was seeing the video that made me want to go see it).


His work is largely comprised of woven and dyed cloths sewn together to form quite abstract pieces, which was what this exhibition consisted of, but he also does other work with strong political and social messages.


Both the lovely wife and I really enjoyed the exhibition. The vibrancy and detail of the work was really impressive, and even though you may look at something like this as being quite abstract, it really drew you in and led to us spending a long time looking at each piece.

We did go to a few other things whilst in the big city, including an exhibition called 'Making & Unmaking' at Camden Arts Centre that was curated by Nigerian born fashion designer Duro Olowu. The exhibition was a very varied mix of different types of artwork, but there was a lot of textile and weaving work so it was very pleasing to me. We also went to the Björk digital exhibition at Somerset House, which was - AMAZING!!! It showcased a selection of video's for her new album, but 5 out of 6 of them were shown on virtual reality headsets. You went into a dark room, put on the headsets, headphones, and sat on a swivel chair. Many of the video's were also shot on a 360 degree camera, so as you can imagine, it was pretty crazy. Unfortunately photography wasn't allowed at either of these events, so you'll just have to take my word for it that they were awesome.

But, whilst at Somerset house, we also managed to catch the London design biennale.


37 countries came together submitting work on the theme of utopia. We went with very few preconceptions of what to expect, and really there was something for everyone.


Many of the pieces were interactive, including this big tube of string which you had to walk through to get to the next part of the exhibition.


These are just a few of my favourite works, but there was so much to see. What I found really interesting was how different countries took different views of the subject of utopia. Not naming names (as to not alienate any readers nationalities), some nations work had very much a 'we could aspire to utopia, it could be our future', while others seemed to have an attitude of 'we know what's best, we'll tell you what utopia is!'......one in particular seemed very politically angry at misconceptions cast upon their country, whilst another seemed regressive and harking back to a so-called 'golden age'......oooooh controversial!

Ok, what about more recently? Well last weekend I drove over to the outskirts of Bristol to catch an event I've been intrigued about for some time.


It was world textile day west. The world textile events go on throughout the year in various locations, so check their website for an event near you. I wasn't 100% on what to expect, it's rather a niche subject, but one that's right up my street. We got there just in time to catch the first talk that was going on.


Diane Gaffney of textile traders gave an hour long talk on Batik fabrics that play an intrinsic role throughout Indonesian life. She gave a wonderful insight into quite how important the messages that the fabric conveys. The talk was titled 'A Matter of Life and Death', and Diane guided us through the fabrics that are given from as early as the pregnancy, all the way through to those that are used in funerals.


Once the talk was over, there was shopping to be done, yayyyyy! Now I don't really need any more fabric, but there was so much that I just couldn't help myself. But even whist trying to keep the purse strings tight, there was still plenty to see.


There were some textiles on display among the stalls, including many amazing South American weavings courtesy of one of my favourite stalls at the event, tukuru textiles.



There were so many beautiful fabrics and objects, and many of the ones of sale (on many of the stalls) had a fairly hefty price tag - but the event does say it is about being fair trade and the workmanship is exquisite....so I guess you pay for quality and rarity, but if I had the money, I would have totally bought this!


These carved gourds, that were carved with an ordinary nail and coloured with ash, were absolutely exquisite. The larger ones demanded a pretty penny (and rightly so), but I managed to get myself a small one for a fair price.

We then caught another two short talks, one on fabric in South China, and the other on symbolism in Ghanaian printed fabric by Magie Relph of African fabric (who I've met before at the knitting and stitching shows)- both of the talks were excellent. So here's my very restrained haul from the day, including Magie and her husband Bob's book.


So yeah, that's what I've been up to....both outings ended up with hot dogs too, one was a currywurst and the other was a chilli dog.....in case you're interested.


Hope you enjoyed these cultural capers, peace out or now x

30 August 2016

Shambala Festival 2016

Well, that weekend flew by, but now that I'm back, rested, washed and finally sober, I guess you'll want to know all about Shambala festival 2016.
This years Shambala was particularly excellent, we saw some amazing bands/shows and took part in some brilliant workshops...but I'll come back to that, we all know that what you really want to see is the costumes!
So this year I was tasked with making not one but two costumes, one for me and one for my best mate. The theme for this year was 'myths and monsters' so I kinda went along the lines of making up my own monsters.
Both of the masks were made out of crochet (that was the easy part). I then backed it onto a wire and papier-mache frame, which had buckles and cords to attach it to our heads.
The black of the mouths was made with a sheer black fabric so we could still see through it, and it was attached with elastic so we could pull it down and still drink (very important).
With both of the masks I used acrylic yarn, mostly from my odds and ends hamper, but stuck a bit of neon yellow, pink and green in there so it was really bright.
I made some paper templates before doing the crochet just so I had a rough idea where the mouths would need to be and get an idea of composition, but overall it mostly a lot of freestyling.
One of my favourite things about wearing crochet costumes is when people recognise it for what it is. There were a few people that asked if it was knitting/crochet, and they seemed a lot more perplexed when this was confirmed (maybe due to it being a mask rather than a garment, it almost seemed that they couldn't believe it was handmade).
Now: reader beware, here comes the 'I want to explain my influences but it may make me sound like a certain type of stereotypical pretentious middle-class white guy' bit. A couple of people commented that the masks and costumes kinda gave off African (or possibly Aztec/Mayan) vibes - this didn't surprise me as there were a lot of influences relating to that in my creation process. 
Whilst making the masks I'd been reading a lot of Nigerian literature, one example being one of my favourite authors named Amos Tutuola. It is also from his most famous book 'The Palm-Wine Drinkard' that I took the quotes that are on the coconut shell necklaces - and yes I broke, sanded and painted the shells myself. The visualisation of folk-tales and animist subjects that run through his books was a big influence on my imagination for these costumes.
But I'd also been reading other books on subjects like Peruvian shamanism and African textiles, so it was really clear to me where my influences lay. It can be a fine line between being influenced by other cultures and misappropriation, but I'd like to think that I'm clear enough on my influences and that my own creativity also comes through......I did warn you that it might get a bit pretentious.
Anyway, as you might have guessed quite a lot of work went into both costumes. As well as all the crochet I threaded every necklace myself, tore up the fabric strips and me and my mate did the tie dye together too (although it ended up coming out a bit fainter than planned).
Unfortunately on the Saturday (which is traditionally fancy dress/costume day) we had torrential downpours, with a thunder and lightening storm which seemed to circle the site for hours). Because of this we weren't able to wear the costumes all day but got dressed up as soon as it stopped raining.
But even with the rain it was still a hell of a lot of fun. As you can see in the photo above plenty of people still powered through and made the effort with their costumes despite the British weather.
So those were this years costumes, who knows what I'll do with them now, maybe I'll put them in some sort of box frame. Well now that the costumes have been dealt with, those of you who follow my yearly festival shenanigans will know there's more crochet to come....
....Every year I make a gift to give out to a random person, just to be nice. This year was no exception.
To start with I made this bracelet using crochet tapestry and hand-sewn beading. But seeing as I made two costumes, I figured I should make two gifts.
So I also made this necklace. Both were given out to people selected completely at random. It's a great feeling to give something with no reasoning or ultimatum, people are generally confused and then shocked when they realise what is happening. But wait there's more, last year I also made a gift for a child, as Shambala is a very family friendly festival.
So I also made this cute little beetle/bug and gave it to a toddler that was with it's parents by the main stage. I also made this little purple scarab beetle for no particular purpose so gave it to some guy that was whittling a spoon in the woods...as you do.
So there we go, that's all of my creations from the festival. So now I'm gonna show you some other cool creative stuff I found around the festival.
How's about a Yarn-bombed Ice Cream van?!! An ice cream van selling knitted finger puppets no less!!!
It was all by a company called Little Fingy. So the van got our attention, the finger puppets drew us in, and inside we discovered this guy selling the puppets!
That's some proper crochet granny square lovin right there! I couldn't help myself and bought a little mouse puppet for the lovely wife. There was plenty of cool non-crochet stuff though, and most of it could be found in the enchanted woods.
We both particularly liked these hanging mirrored LED cubes. When you looked into the side of them you got an infinite reflection type thing going on.
They also appeared to change colour in relation to the sounds around it....although we did struggle to figure out whether this was happening or if we were just too drunk.
As well as the cubes there was also this awesome video piece that again used mirrors. You put your hand in a hole and it created a kaleidoscopic feedback effect.
And finally, there were these hanging fibre-optic LED's suspended from and wrapped around the trees. 
Not only did it look cool but people were really enjoying wrapping themselves up in lights that hung down to the ground.
So yeah, that was a very visual account of this years Shambala. What things did I enjoy most I hear you ask? Well....
Workshop highlights: Shaman Drumming, Afon Systema Maracatu Drumming, Tai Chi Qigong Shibashi.
Music Highlights: Nightmares on Wax, Dele Sosimi, The Comet Is Coming (these guys were absolutely amazing).
Food Highlights: Surprisingly for me, everything was awesome (I say surprising cos it was all meat-free this year and I'm a total carnivore), in particular the Dosa Deli Indian Savoury Crispy Pancakes and the Pho Sho Vietnamese-style baguettes were out of this world.

So that's it for this year, unfortunately I don't know what I'll do next year, as my best buddy Broughton is entering the adult world of parenthood so won't be able to come with me next year. In some ways it's the end of a very drunken era. But I love Shambala so much, I don't think it'll be my last time in Utopia.
Hope you all enjoyed the madness and the massive blog post. Until next time - peace out x

08 July 2016

sunshine and shell stitches

Ahoy hoy. I finally finished one of those side projects that I started back in May, and figured you might like to see it. This summers weather may be a bit all over the place, but I'm trying to brighten up the day with this sunshine shell stitch cardigan.
I started this cardigan when we went on holiday, and I've just kinda been making it up and working on it when I have a little spare time (not a lot of that at the moment). It's made with 'Stylecraft Special dk', and the 'special' bit does give it that little extra softness so it's not itchy to wear but also feels strong and hardy.
It's made entirely from 5tr shell stitches (and all the increases and decreases are incorporated within shells), and it gives it a surprisingly nice texture. This shade of 'sunshine' yellow seems to have been very fashionable recently....for women, I've not been able to find anything in this colour for men, so I figured I'd make something for myself.
I added some black buttons to give it a bit of contrast, but I rarely button up cardigans anyway so they're there for mostly aesthetic reasons (plus it's a little tight when done up).
I have done my usual thing, of writing notes with the intention that one day it can become a pattern, but it'll take a bit of work. Although I was happy with the way I worked out increases and decreases with shells, I made a few errors with sizing, but overall it fits me fine.
I've also been undergoing physiotherapy whilst making this cardigan as I've had a trapped nerve in my crochet arm (also doesn't help that I'm as weak as a kitten), but this has actually been quite a relaxing project. Sometimes I think the best crochet projects are the ones that are very repetitive and allow you to almost enter a meditative state.

But you'll be glad to know the therapy is really helping and I've got some hardcore crochet projects to get started on soon. Until then, peace out x